When my kids were younger, every summer vacation, we would go camping with my sister and my brother-in-law. It only occurred to me recently that while camping was all that I could afford at the time, perhaps my sister and my brother-in-law could have afforded more luxurious accommodations. Nonetheless, every summer, they happily loaded their car with camping gear and off we would go.
We had so many lovely moments – I recall with warmth, happiness and some wonder the night we camped out somewhere in Nova Scotia under the bright glow of a full moon. We had a whole field to ourselves that night and we romped easily over every well-lit inch of it. I recollect another night on the Cabot Trail – no moon in sight – when we sat, awestruck, under the stars, and my daughter – staring up in wonder – asked ‘why we didn’t have stars where we lived’ (under the lights of a sizeable city).
I also remember with great fondness (believe it or not) the summer that my daughter got lice: despite the fact that she and I had been sharing a mattress, one big sleeping bag and one pillow; despite the fact that she slept with her head on her Uncle’s shoulder in the car; she was the only victim. “Why me, Mom? Why didn’t they bother anyone else???” she wailed, when we got to my Mom and Dad’s house and gave her the Full Lice Treatment. “Oh, sweet pea,” I consoled her, hugging her tight (and trying not to nervously scratch my head in her presence). “You must taste absolutely wonderful and we must all taste really yucky if you’re the only one they bothered with.” Somehow, this skewed logic comforted my competitive little daughter and she smiled and wandered away, pleased to be the sole winner of the Lice Taste Test.
There were more than a few rough moments during our decade of camping as well. As my son got progressively older and decided to flex his masculine testosterone muscle, he and his uncle tended to butt heads. Over everything, it seemed. And then there was the time my brother-in-law had to hurriedly take the kids off ‘somewhere’ while my sister and I had a no-holds-barred screaming fight that lasted for hours before we finally resolved our differences. She and I were still both struggling, in those years, with unresolved scars from childhood and we occasionally wrangled big time. It’s hard to give a person space and distance on a camp site, so grating on one another’s nerves could and did happen from time to time.
My very favourite memory, though, remains the weeks before our very first camping trip, when I prepared the kids for life on a campground. “Be sure to prepare them for the bathrooms”, suggested a friend at work. “Kids who have never used a shower can get pretty freaked out.” I dutifully started training the next night. “There won’t be any bathtubs at the campground”, I informed the kids. “We might as well start practicing using a shower right away.” My daughter was happy to take a shower with me, so training her was a piece of cake. My son, now aged 7 or 8 was NOT, he told me emphatically, going to shower ‘with the girls’. “Fine,” I agreed. “You can shower alone but you have to go to the men’s showers at the same time as Uncle S_.”
Total Embarrassment Disaster averted, he dutifully waited on the other side of the shower curtain while my daughter got her first lesson. I carefully – and loudly, so my son could hear – began giving my instructions: “Okay, first we put some shampoo – about the size of a quarter – in our hand. Then we work it into our hair while we count to at least 30. Soap can hurt the eyes so we keep our eyes closed the whole time, and we only open them after we’ve rinsed all the soap out. Count to 10 while you’re rinsing, just to be sure (and so on).”
My son couldn’t wait. As soon as his sister and I were out of the shower, he had hopped in, just raring to get started. He and I continued our loud back-and-forth conversation through the shower curtain as he went through the various stages of ‘getting clean’. It was a positive experience: things were going really well. At one point, I heard his boyish little voice, positively aquiver with excitement, as he said, more to himself than to me or his sister, “I’m SO excited!!! I’m so prepared for LIFE!”
Ah, that it should be so easy to become ‘prepared for life’, I recall thinking, as I smiled through the big lump in my throat and the tears that had sprung up without warning…
Patti Moore Wilson © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com